The water supply in most of the Arab countries is in “continuous decline” and the region is “heading towards a severe water scarcity within a decade and half,” an expert taking part in a seminar in Doha yesterday said.
International Fund for Agricultural Development’s regional communication manager for the Near East and North Africa, Taysir al-Ghanem, expected that by 2025, the annual per capita water supply will be around 500 cubic metre, or 15% of what it used to be in 1960, when it stood at 3,300 cubic metre.
“It is not an encouraging scenario as 5% of the world’s population lives in the Arab countries – a region having less than 1% of global water resources.”
Addressing participants at a five-day capacity building workshop held jointly between Qatar’s Ministry of Environment and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), he said demographic growth, economic growth, urbanisation, industrialisation and the expansion of irrigated agricultural lands have all contributed to a dramatic and unsustainable increase in water consumption over the past few decades and that trend would continue in the coming years.
Al-Ghanem added that the region was going to be affected by global warming and that would even aggravate the water shortage.
He said that the organisation he represents worked, during the past three decades, to develop effective, replicable solutions to help poor rural communities manage their scarce water resources and that more than half of IFAD’s projects in the region had a focus on water.
The expert said that IFAD’s regional approach supported water infrastructure development, rational use of available surface water and groundwater resources in the marginal areas.
Talking about the “dilemma facing the agricultural sector”, he said that it consumed over 83% of the water in the region.
He said larger quantities of the clean water resources that are now used in agriculture should be diverted to cities for domestic consumption.
He said that for some countries, the option of desalination was simply “unaffordable.”
As a possible solution, the expert suggested that political, social, economic and administrative systems needed to be developed.
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